Santa Season Brings the Magic

The Santa Season is well upon us now, Christmas trees line the drive at Sheffield Park, stations are decorated with tinsel and our locomotives are clean and shining with Santa headboards! 

We have been fortunate with the weather too, which has been relatively mild, and I certainly appreciated this when I was driving on 8 December!It was really pleasing to see families arrive, be welcomed by our staffand then travel to Horsted Keynes for the traditional Victorian games and mulled wine. 

Horsted Keynes is the central hub of our Christmas season, with servicesdeparting Sheffield Park and East Grinstead and meeting at Horsted Keynes. The station is ideally suited for this system, with ample space and excellent operational flexibility, and I’m pleased to say our Santa trains are over 96% sold out. Our Santa offering is one of the key revenue earning events of the year, and our Customer Service and Marketing team has done an excellent job in advertising and preparing for the event. 

Members may have noticed some work going on in our overflow car park at Sheffield Park. Traditionally, we have been able to share car parking with our neighbours and Sheffield Park Gardens. However, this year we needed to be self-sufficient, so the Railway has invested in extending our overflow car park. This work not only has proved popular with our visitors, it has allowed the Railway to be completely self-sufficient for future events too: an important consideration as we enter our 60th year and celebrate our Diamond Jubilee in August 2020.

Infrastructure: Track Replacement Scheduled

On 2 January the Railway will close for six weeks for annual engineeringwork. This year will see another quarter of a mile of track fully replaced from just north of Waterworks to just south of Horsted Keynes. 

This stretch of our line is next on the priority list, and it will involve complete removal of the existing track, drainage, and formation before a new formation is laid, new drainage installed, and all new track laid. 

The decision was taken many years ago to install flat bottom rail on ourrunning line as this is now more cost effective to purchase, easier to install, and more importantly easier to maintain. Track currently costs approximately £125,000 per quarter mile and this investment, alongside the excellent installation by our Infrastructure team, produces a first class job and one to rival any Network Rail project. 

Once this work is complete, nearly all of the section between Sheffield Park and Horsted Keynes will have been relayed, with approximately one mile to complete over the coming years. Our attention will then turn to the running line north of Horsted Keynes.

Carriages and ... Wagons

The Carriage & Wagon Department has been very busy in the past few months preparing our coaches for Santa Specials. A lot of work and effort goes into the regular maintenance and inspection of our carriages, all of which is recorded and carried out at set time or mileage periods. 

Overhaul work continues in the main workshop, with Pullman Brake Car 54 proceeding well as staff and funds permit. This car will be a valuable asset to the Railway and our Pullman Golden Arrow dining train, providing a brake vehicle for the train and disabled access. 

When we talk about the C&W Department, we primarily focus on the carriage aspect and don’t talk much about the wagons. Freight trains were a very common scene on railways, moving goods between cities and from the docks and countryside. But heritage wagons have taken a secondary role in the C&W Department, as our attention has to be on passenger carrying vehicles. However, our Railway has a large fleet of wagons, and now a volunteer group has recently convened to return a number of these to service. 

Locomotive Update

Back at Sheffield Park, work has proceeded both inside and outside the Loco Works. Outside in the new maintenance shed, P tank No. 178, O1 No. 65, and S15 No. 847 have all recently been through their annual boiler exams. This is likely to be the last annual boiler exam for the S15 as the loco has now run more than 50,000 miles in six years. As a comparison, when No. 80151 first ran on the Bluebell Railway, it completed around 65,000 miles in 11 years, so it’s fair to say the S15 has played its part. A more detailed explanation of what’s involved in the annual boiler exam process is explained in the next issue of Bluebell News.

Inside the Loco Works, we are proceeding very well on No. 34059 "Sir Archibald Sinclair". The main focus has been the installation of the more than 2,200 stays. This job is now well advanced, with the backhead and both firebox sides 85% complete.

Attention has now turned to the throat plate where the process of drilling, reaming, taping, and installing the stays has started. Alongside this work, we have ordered the new smoke tubes and flue tubes,which will be delivered in early 2020. Work also has begun on the chassis, where the pistons and valves have been removed, including the valve gear. Volunteers are now cleaning these up and assessing what workmay be required. 

A mechanical intermediate overhaul of H class No. 263 is almost complete, with the grinding of the crank axle to be completed once the in-house designed machine has been manufactured. We also have made a start on stripping Terrier No. 672 "Fenchurch" to assess the condition of the boiler. Once the boiler is removed, we’ll return the chassis to the running shed and carefully dismantle the boiler so we can assess theinner and outer firebox platework, the boiler barrel, and the tubeplates. This loco is 150 years old in 2022, so our aim is to have her running for that anniversary.

Marketing Matters

All of these overhaul and maintenance activities across Infrastructure, C&W, and the Loco Works would not be possible unless we marketed theRailway and sold tickets to our visitors, so we must recognise the workdone by our Customer Service and Marketing team. 

There have been some internal changes within that team recently, and it’s very pleasing to see them bearing fruit, with all our 2020 events advertised on our website and tickets on sale for our 2020 Wealden Rambler and Golden Arrow services. We also have started to make more useof social media, so for those of you on Facebook and other channels youwill see us popping up much more often now. We are also looking at waysto better market our retail and catering offerings, and changes for 2020 will be announced very soon.

I’d like to thank you for supporting the Railway throughout 2019, and I look forward to welcoming you in 2020 for our Diamond Jubilee year. It will be a very exciting anniversary. I’m sure those early pioneers neverdreamed of us still running 60 years later! Let's look forward to running for another 60 years“in 2080, steam railways will look even moreancient against the modern trains and motor vehicles of that day.

Happy Christmas and Happy New Year to you and your families from all of us at the Railway. Here's to seeing you in our 60th year!

By Chris Hunford, Chairman, Bluebell Railway PLC

Work has taken place to remove the grassed areas of the Sheffield Park overflow car park and to create afirm and level base. The schedule was affected by heavy rainfall, but it has been done in time for the Santa Specials in order to help with visitor parking.

Here are some exciting winter events for your calendar ...

  • Until 23 Dec.: Golden Arrow Christmas Dinners
  • Until 24 Dec.: Santa Specials
  • 31 Dec.: New Year on the Golden Arrow
  • 1 Jan. : Trains will be running


2020 will be a banner year for the Railway, as celebrations of the Diamond Anniversary take place.
NOTE: The next eNewsletter will be published on 19 January.
David Burch Appointed as Finance Director

New Finance Director David Burch is an Associate Member of the CharteredInstitute of Management Accountants and is currently Head of Finance and Operations for the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries.

David has a life-long interest in railways and has been a member of the Bluebell Railway for many years, visiting with his family and on his ownfor our special events. He lives in West Wickham and outside work, he is also the Honorary Treasurer and Board Trustee of PACEY, an early years charity based in Bromley, as well as being a member of his local Rotary Club.

“I am delighted to join the Board of the Bluebell Railway as Finance Director and use my skills as an accountant to help the Railway remain one of the premier steam railways in the UK,” says David.
Introducing New Sunday Breakfast Golden Arrow Trains

The Bluebell Railway is introducing its own silver service Sunday breakfast trains for the first time. The Sunday breakfast trains will run on 8, 15, and 29 March, 2020.

Passengers will be served a traditional English breakfast in one of the Railway’s luxury dining cars as the Golden Arrow trains travel from Sheffield Park to East Grinstead and back during a 90-minute experience.

Retail Director Neil Glaskin says, "The Golden Arrow Breakfast train hasbeen introduced to offer customers something a little different. We hope this new product is enjoyed by both new and returning customers andis something that we can build on for the future."

Further details, including the menu, and booking information can be found at this webpage .
Infrastructure Update: A New Bridge Planned at Freshfield

With the Santa Specials, it is unusual for the Infrastructure Departmentto do any track laying in December. There was a small exception this year as we have been asked to extend the tram road adjacent to E road inOP4. 

This is a short section that is not connected to any other track and used for servicing wheelsets and bogies. Steel reinforcing is required to cope with the loads that will be put on it. Wood is used to ensure that the groove for the wheel flanges is not filled with concrete. By 12December, one truck full of ready-mix concrete will have been poured onthe west side and between the rails. If we did the east side at the same time, we would be unable reach to trowel off the centre section. This area will be concreted at a later date.

Early in the New Year, Infrastructure will be relaying 26 60-foot track panels at Three Arch Bridge. Most of this section is in a deep cutting and suffers from drainage problems. 

Sleepers, rail, fishplates, and other items have been moved trackside inpreparation. Posts have been accurately knocked in at intervals to ensure we know the exact line the relayed track should take. This will not be a totally straightforward job. Most of the formation will requirea Terram/ polythene/Terram sandwich under the ballast to allow water torun into a new drain that will be dug down the length of the cutting south of Three Arch Bridge on the west side. 

The existing drainage ditch on the east side is not sufficient to properly drain the track bed by itself. Six cross drains will also be dug under the track formation, emptying into the new drainage ditch.

At the southern end, the new track will connect up to track already relaid. At the northern end, it will still be some way short of Horsted Keynes station limits. Track relaying tends to happen in units of 13 panels: the load of one delivery of rail.

Much preparation goes into planning and preparing for track relaying. One of the next will be the foot of Freshfield Bank. The decision has been made to entirely replace Palmer's Bridge. Although we have put in replacement bridges in the process of extending the line (such as New Coombe Bridge), this will be the first time we will have replaced a bridge under the running line.

Drawing on our experience of stabilising the embankment at Poleay Bridgein 2017, the new bridge will be constructed in-house. The photos show the formers for the bridge sections. The longer former will be used to cast two sill beams that will lie across the end of the embankment and act as supports for the deck slabs that will cross the gap. The shorter former will be used to cast deck slabs, each of which will encase six universal columns to bear the load. We need to cast a total of three deck slabs, two parapets, and four sill beams.

Dick Beckwith, our bridge engineer, has overseen the design of the replacement bridge. The formers have required a great deal of detailed design to ensure that they can be reused as needed. Andy Palmer, Gary Whitaker, and Norman Ray have spent many hours over this detail.

One final note about Horsted Keynes: the team has been doing clearance work there in the top car park.

By Bruce Healey
The extension to the tram road, with the protective plastic layer and reinforcing steel mesh on the west and central sections. Photo: Clive Whitcroft.
The former that will be used to cast the sill beams (in two sections) for the Freshfield bridge. This will go under the track and at right-angles to the track with the deck beams resting on them.
The former used make the bridge deck beams. There will be three central deck beams and two outer ones that will have the bridge parapets cast onto them when in place.
"Quirky Sussex History" has a charming“well, quirky“ article about the several dogs that played "Railway Jack." It includes a mention of the Jack that is displayed in the Bluebell RailwayMuseum: "When he died the poor creature was stuffed and continued to raise money by being displayed in a glass box. In 1967 the second Railway Jack was purchased by the Bluebell Railway where it still can beseen on display."
Sussex Life uses a wonderful illustration from Matthew Cousins of SECR H class No. 263 on the front cover of its December issue .
Operations Department: Risk Management Event Held
“Where has the year gone?” We’re not quite at the New Year yet, but Santa Season is now well and truly with us, with lots of volunteers and paid staff working long days to provide a festive experience to our passengers young and old. As with Giants of Steam, passenger numbers areexcellent. As most of our passengers start their experience at Sheffield Park, the overflow (not a good word to use with all this recent rain) car park has been extended with a more permanent surface laid, as this car park can be rather boggy at times.

In early November, the Railway hosted the Office of Road and Rail and Heritage Railway Association (ORR/HRA) to launch their Risk Management Maturity Model (RM3 2019). The delegates included volunteers and paid staff from other heritage railways. Their 82-page document is something the ORR wish the whole railway industry to work towards, and it is a document that the ORR will use to judge our performance, governance, andstandards, although it is expected that a slightly modified version maybe produced for heritage railways. The Bluebell Railway’s Board is already working towards RM3 as the view of the ORR is a heritage railwayexperience at 2019 standards.

New visitor guides are available from our stations. This year’s colourful, folded guide“slightly larger than old London Bus Maps“is one of the best I have seen and very fitting for our 60th anniversary year. The main event is 7-9 Aug., 2020, when you can help celebrate the achievements of volunteers and staff over the past six decades.

A reminder that at this time of year railway timetables change over the whole national network, and our railway is no exception. Here are our three services for 2020, taking effect on 1 January ( online timetables are found here ): 

Service One

Sheffield Park: 10:45, 1:15, 3:30
East Grinstead: 11:45, 2:15, 4:30

Service Two

Sheffield Park: 10:00, 11:15, 12:45, 2:15, 3:30
East Grinstead: 11:00, 12:30, 2:00, 3:15, 4:30

Service Three

Sheffield Park: 9:30, 10:45, 12:00, 1:15, 2:30, 4:00
East Grinstead: 10:30, 11:45, 1:00, 2:15, 3:45, 5:00

I wish you a Merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year, whichever way you celebrate this festive season.

By Mike Ellis, Operations Director.
C&W Department Year in Review

Chloe the C&W Cat stars in RichardSalmon's comprehensive overview“including plenty of photos“of work on arange of carriages and wagons, beginning with No. 5768 ...

The big relaunch was that of the Bulleid Society’s composite No. 5768, which re-emerged from its comprehensive bottom-up overhaul for the Branch Line weekend in March, when it operated as part of a four-coach set of Bulleid coaches.

Also back in service was Bulleid Open Third No.1482, which is now three-quarters of the way through a project that has seen it re-wired, asbestos removed, most of the seats re-trimmed, sidelights (windows) removed, steelwork repaired and re-bedded. Chloe, the C&W cat, always finds the most recently trimmed cushion on which to sit“in this case, a retrimmed seat using SR Bulleid-period moquette in No.1482. This work has been done in stages such that the carriage returned for service as required for peak traffic requirements ... MORE
C&W Department: Challenges for the Coming Year

By the time you are reading this the General Election will be history and just maybe we can take a long-earned rest from national crises. In the Carriage & Wagon Department, we have our own challenges“called “opportunities” these days“one of which is, “How do we continue to keep up with the maintenance workload of the fleet of around 40 carriages?”

The cornerstone of the maintenance attention of all our carriages is thesix-monthly exam. This exam takes place in C&W on a pitted road in our newly commissioned E Road in OP4, and it is vital for keeping our fleet of carriages safe and reliable. The six-monthly exam is a significant piece of work centred mainly around the following:

On the underframe:

  • Keeping the brakes adjusted and efficient and renewing brake blocks.
  • Checking that everything is still bolted up and secure.
  • Checking the gangways, buffers, couplings, and draw-gear for wear and malfunction.
  • Checking wheels for defects and wear and bearings for signs of problems.
  • Testing the steam heating equipment and checking for faults.
  • Checking batteries and dynamos for condition.

On the body above sole bar:

  • Examining doors and locks for operation.
  • Examining the seating and tables for defects.
  • Checking windows and general interior.
  • Checking the toilets.
  • Checking the lighting.

And then of course the inevitable repairs …

The above list is neither detailed nor exhaustive, but it gives you a flavour of what is involved. Similarly, all the above gives you an idea of the opportunities for your input!

Does any of this important, interesting, and varied work sound like something you might like to do, given a little training? Do you have a discerning eye for mechanical things working sweetly? If so, why not take up the challenge and join our merry band of people keeping our lovely carriages in tip top condition? 

You may find yourself working on old compartment stock, Bulleid corridorstock, Maunsell stock or, the stalwart of British Railways trains, the Mk. 1. It all has to be kept safe and reliable with a six-monthly exam. If you can take up the challenge, then please email and you’ll be put in touch with us. 

Whatever challenges (“opportunities”) you decide to take up, the C&W Department wishes you a happy and successful New Year.

By Bob Pamment, Rolling Stock Director.
London, Midland and Scottish Express Train Being Bombed Near Bletchley, October 1940 ("The LMS at War Series"), by Norman Wilkinson (National Railway Museum).
"In Albi, France, a railway network is seen, comprising accurate scale models of French steam engines. M. Gordes has taken 27 years to build this fantastically realistic railway, and taken some 9,000 hours to makeone engine."
Building the Mallaig Extension Line, 1890s .A steam traction engine provides power through a belt drive. From albums that belonged to one of the engineers working on the line construction.
All Present & Correct

From Roy Watts (15 Dec., 2019): "Last year there were four station masters. This year all six were on duty at East Grinstead Station (L to R) Len Harvie, Pat Page, Roy Watts, Richard Clark, Mark Baker, and Mike Jackson. How many will there be next year?"
BY404 Update: Beginning to See the Light

We have made more progress recently on the BY404 guard's brake van despite the weather, and although there is still more to do, we are hopeful that the exterior will be finished soon. 

At the end of another year, we are beginning to see the light so far as major work is concerned, but the inside of the van isn't seeing the light because all the windows have been boarded up to prevent the insidefrom getting damp again. This boarding-up was done because all the droplights have been shunted off-site for more intensive work than can be done at the side of the line behind the box at Horsted Keynes. This latest bit of fun started once the lights had been removed, revealing a catalogue of horrors that needed to be attended to before a paint brush went anywhere near them.

Six lights are now ready to put back in place but not before the door interiors are finished. The four left to do are in somewhat better condition and will take less time than two that had to be completely re-jointed. One needed a completely new side rail that can be seen in the third photo below, and it required an interesting bit of routing. Originally, and somewhat optimistically, we started on what was going tobe just a cosmetic restoration (in other words, a lick of paint). However, you can't paint what isn't there, or what is just literally falling apart, so the job has taken far longer than intended.

Much of the structure is sound, but closer inspection revealed things that had to be properly restored before any paint could be applied. So far we have renewed three footsteps, guard's door skins outside and inside, a section of flooring in the south cabin, all the roof ends holding the canvas in place, blocks for vac pipes at both ends, plug pockets at the south end, various exterior boards that had too much rot to be saved, and some exterior edge mouldings machined to match the original.

New destination plates and backing boards have now been fitted, and tooling for the fly press was made to sink the dimples in the return on the guard's door skins, a job that can't be done with the Gabro press inthe C&W Works. The locks on the guard's doors have been repaired and serviced, and we are fitting a new top to the guard's desk.

We are trying to get the guard's cabin fit for habitation first so BY404can get back into traffic, so various fittings in there are being tidied up. The frames for the periscopes are being given a birthday, andthe upper mirrors are being replaced as well because the silvering is in poor condition and would likely be an operating issue once the van isback into traffic. 

There is still more painting to do, and we are active most Wednesdays behind the box at Horsted Keynes“even if it is raining“as there is stillpainting to do inside. We are hoping to have the van ready for the 60thanniversary celebrations in 2020, when one of the cabins will be used for an exhibition showing aspects of filming at the Railway over the years. 

Once fitness to run is agreed to, you might start to see the van in regular use because Operations is keen to get it back into traffic.

By Mike Hopps
Carol Service Welcomes Father David

The Railway’s annual Carol Service at Horsted Keynes station was held on7 December, welcoming new Chaplain Fr. David Murdoch of St. Giles, Horsted Keynes.

Traditional and well-known carols were sung by 347 visitors to the event, accompanied by the Bluebell Railway Band and supported by a village choir, the HK Performers.

In his address, Father David introduced himself as a keen railway supporter whose holidays always include a visit to a preserved line somewhere around the country. He spoke of Thomas the Tank Engine and MrsKindly, reminding us all of the Christmas message to help and love one another not just at this time of year.

Father David also added that he was keen to get to know members and supporters of the Railway who were welcome to contact him at the Rectoryin Horsted Keynes if he could be of service at any time.
After the service I received the following email from Mr. Andrew Slater who writes ...

Just to say what a really good evening it was at HK last evening. Definitely rates amongst one of the best.

Whata fabulous turn out. We did our bit with 14 of the Slater clan being onthe platform helping to swell the numbers, ranging from Jessie's Ollie being the youngest at nearly two through all the generations including my Ma, “Great Grandma,” now not too far off 90!!

Thoroughlyenjoyed it. Many thanks to all, I know from experience that these things don't just happen, so please pass on our thanks to all involved.

A collection taken after the service raised £460, which was shared by the Bluebell Railway Band, St. Giles Church, and Horsted Keynes Station Restoration Fund.

My thanks to all involved in this year’s service and a very Merry Christmas and good wishes for 2020 to all members of the Bluebell Railway Preservation Society and supporters.

By Tim Baker, Senior Station Master, Horsted Keynes
The Uckfield FM interview with Communications Director Paul Bromley is now available on its “Listen Again” service.
Great British Wine Tours posted a review and photos on Facebook of a successful corporate away day at the Railway:

“Want a corporate away day onboard a steam train done properly?! Our clients enjoyed private transport in a vintage London bus, English sparkling wine reception at the Bluebell Railway with private luxury carriage, silver service, canap├ęs, and tutored English wine tasting of five wines on board."
The Brighton Bogie First: “Is it a Stroudley?”

Ian White investigates what seemed at the time an odd question about the Brighton Bogie First“but the answer may surprise you!

Before moving to Derbyshire about six years ago, I volunteered in the Carriage & Wagon Department at Horsted Keynes. I must have had several conversations with Trevor Rapley about the restoration of the Brighton Bogie First, a project that Trevor had led.

On one occasion, he recounted a visit to the carriage by a well-known but now long-departed LB&SCR carriage expert, who uttered an unexpected and seemingly odd question: “Is it a Stroudley?”

Trevor and I agreed that it was an odd question from somebody who must have known that it was not a Stroudley carriage. LB&SCR No. 142 (SR No. 7598) was built in 1903 to LB&SCR diagram 64 and allocated in a later diagram series to D49. The earliest examples of D64/49 were built in 1894 when Robert Billinton oversaw rolling stock production (1890-1904), so we traditionally describe it as a “Billinton carriage” ... MORE .
"Sir Archie" Overhaul Going Strong

John Fry's photo shows progress at the end of November with No. 34059 "Sir Archibald Sinclair". This view is of the right hand side of the chassis. It shows the valve has been removed from the block with the piston head just visible below.

Chris Eden-Green presents another "Gauge the Issue" video, this time on the subject of The Conditions Of Carriage(s) on our heritage lines.
No. 80151 shunts the Santa Special on 8 Dec., 2019, by Heritage Railway Productions.  View part 2 here.
Project 27: The Chairman's Birthday Working Day

The Project 27 blog has been updated with recent news on the overhaul of SECR P class No. 27. 

This photo shows the left hand valve rod, one of the components that has returned from Statfold Barn, where they were metal sprayed and ground round: "The photos do not really do them justice, a great job wascarried out on them." 

A Laugh Is Good for Your 'Elf

The Bluebell Railway's social media accounts are in "good elf" this December.

Every day throughout the month there is a photo on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram of an elf somewhere around the Railway. It is all part of the "Elf on the Shelf" social media phenomenon where users post a daily picture in December of an elf in a different location.

The Bluebell Railway posts help to raise our profile, provide a surprise, and raise a smile. The idea for the Railway to take part in "Elf on the Shelf" came from Terry Shaw, an on-board train supervisor, and the photos have been taken ('elf and safety permitting, of course) and posted by digital marketing co-ordinator Sophie Matthews.

By Paul Bromley, Communications Director
Peter Edwards' photo shows the first train of the 2019 "Santa Special" season, passing Waterworks on 2 Dec., 2019. 

No. 73082 'Camelot' is pulling empty coaching stock that will form the first Santa departure southwards from East Grinstead. No. 80151 is attached to the rear. It was dropped off at Horsted Keynes to collect the carriages for the third of the three trains running each day of the season.
John Sandys (5 Dec., 2019): "New stock in the shop and the S15 warming through in the yard ahead of its Santa duties." 
Thankyou for reading our eNewsletter. It's because of our members, volunteers, visitors, and supporters that the Railway continues its success.

Pleasecontinue to support us by passing this issue on to your friends, family, and/or colleagues by forwarding using the social media links above, or encourage others to sign up for the eNewsletter  at this link

If you ever have a question, comment, or contribution, don't hesitate to get in touch with me at .

John Walls
Editor-in-Chief, eNewsletter
Bluebell Railway

© Bluebell Railway Preservation Society 2019

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